Featured: Lamborghini 350GT Is Refined Beauty

Lamborghini 350GT Is Refined Beauty

By Ronald Ahrens
September 4, 2014

Photography by Rémi Dargegen for Petrolicious

Engineer Gian Paolo Dallara had the work ethic and pragmatism to match Mr. Ferruccio Lamborghini’s no-nonsense approach in starting a company to produce road-going automobiles. Lamborghini would not engage in racing, which was seen as an expensive folly. Yet the made-from-scratch operation, located in Sant’Agata, Italy, was intended to create surpassingly great road cars, besting those from Ferrari not only in performance but also quality.

Gian Paolo, who is now seventy-seven years old and has enjoyed a prodigious career as a chassis designer, once pointed out that Lamborghini was a Taurus under the Zodiac. Subsequent Lamborghini cars were named for bulls, of course, but the founder could demonstrate single-mindedness and intractability as well. Proving himself as much a masterful politician as masterful engineer, he has said it’s sometimes necessary to compromise, the implication being that he knew when to do so in order to avoid the impasse that had been reached between Mr. Giotto Bizzarrini and il Commendatore.

Giotto was commissioned to design the V-12 for the first Lamborghini road car. It was to be a civilized version of a racing engine, yet the prototype was a high-revving thoroughbred. Faced with the founder’s displeasure, Giotto unsurprisingly left the project, and Gian Paolo was tasked with instilling manners in the metal. Besides being refined, the DOHC powerplant was also to be more durable.

In October of 1963, the young engineer Gian Paolo and his top assistant, Paolo Stanzani, who had been working with a shoestring budget, tested their revised V-12. It still had four camshafts and displaced 3464cc, but now it had a lower 9.4:1 compression ratio, more accessible distributors, single oil filter, milder profile for the four camshafts, and wet sump. Conventional sidedraft Weber carburetors replaced the 36mm vertical ones, which were better-suited for the track. Output was now 270 hp, and the new car, called the 350GT, would be capable of 0 to 62 mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 158 mph. The five-speed manual transmission survived these wholesale changes.

The Lamborghini 350GTV prototype, shown in October of 1963, had provoked ambiguous responses from the press and public, so in the following five months it was also reengineered en route to becoming the 350GT. For example, the headlights were now fixed, rather than being of the more amusing but less stalwart pop-up type. Fully independent suspension by wishbones, with coil spring-and-damper units, was quite advanced for the time. Carrozzeria Touring would use its Superleggera method of attaching lovely, handmade aluminum body panels to the tube chassis, which Gian Paolo and his assistant had significantly strengthened compared to the GTV’s.

Production of the 350GT started in May of 1964, and the first customer delivery was in July. Retail price was $15,600. Only 120 examples of the grand tourer were built by 1966, when the 400GT succeeded it. On the road, a 350GT remains a thing of refined beauty, although its rather narrow track, overall width of 68.1 inches, and wheelbase of 100.4 inches hardly make for an aggressive stance. At only forty-eight inches in height, it is just tall enough for easy entry and exit, while also providing an airy greenhouse under the small canopy; yet it is low enough to be breathtaking.

Naturally enough for such a rare and significant car, the 350GT is also expensive, and plenty of people inhaled deeply a couple weekends ago at RM Auctions’ Monterey sale when a 1965 model crossed the block. The car (chassis 0244), touted in the catalog as a “fresh restoration in spectacular colors,” was said to be free of the galvanic corrosion between the tubing and aluminum panels that has bedeviled other Superleggera family members. In 57,331 miles, there had never been the need to bring the original spare tire out of the trunk. The presale estimate was between $750,000 and $1 million, and–Gasp!–$825,000 took it away.

Given that amount in 1963, Ferruccio Lamborghini, Gian Paolo Dallara, and their team might have been able to develop a second, companion model to the 350GT. No shoestrings required.

Thank you to Cecil Cars for providing the Lamborghini.

Lamborghini Legends Take a Break To Discuss the Past, Present, and a bit of the Future

Interview by Yoav Gilad

During Monterey Car Week, I was afforded the opportunity to interview Messrs. Gian Paolo Dallara (aforementioned Lamborghini engineer and motorsports consultant) and Filippo Perini (Lamborghini Chief Designer, pictured above) amidst the chaos of The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering under a shady tree by the Lamborghini stage. They were friendly, open, and eager to discuss both Lamborghini’s cars, including their just launched Huracán Super Trofeo, and personal automotive tastes.

Petrolicious: Is there too much emphasis on horsepower today?

Gian Paolo: The engine is still part of the car, it plays maybe fifty percent of the role. A good chassis without a good engine will never win, and a good engine without a good chassis will never win. You need both. And you need a driver.

Petrolicious: Is it the same balance for road cars?

Gian Paolo: It depends on the car and what you need. If you want a car to commute in a town, you don’t need power. If you want a car to enjoy the emotions of speed–you need power.

Petrolicious: What do you think the auto industry should be focusing on?

Gian Paolo: Pollution. Ah, and a nice car costs the same to develop as a bad looking car. The car should be nice, it can be clean, but even cars like these (pointing to the new Huracán) are reducing their pollution every year. Step by step, it’s never easy and it’s always more and more demanding, but it’s their job (pointing at Filippo). If the car isn’t nice, regardless of the performance, why would you buy it? You need an engine, a chassis, but if it doesn’t make you feel emotions, why buy the car?

Filippo: As Mr. Dallara says, it’s a combination of many factors. A beautiful car is the sum of many parts and all of these parts have to be well-managed by the company. And the fact that Mr. Dallara is here is evidence that Lamborghini is working at a level that is not for all.

Gian Paolo: The point is that you need everything [all the ingredients]. If you have a car that is just built by engineers, you’ll be missing the spark that makes the car beautiful and still the cost is the same. But you need people like this (gesturing at Filippo) that are experts in style, in the history and heritage of the company, they have to dictate the evolution of the company.

Petrolicious [to Filippo]: How did your time at Alfa Romeo help you with this role?

Filippo: I started there as a designer, but I began working in a completely different way, with different systems, from what we use today. For example, the Huracán is evidence that the process that we’re using is very modern and with the current techniques we can do a really good job. I’d describe the Super Trofeo as a good example of cooperation, because we received the early data from the engineers and did just a few things to eliminate some small surfacing errors without changing the philosophy of the aerodynamics and you can see the result. It was also very quick.

Petrolicious: How long did you spend designing the car?

Filippo: About four months, after Mr. Dallara fixed the [chassis] design. And the designers loved working on it. There is a strong line dividing designers and stylists. But let me make it clear that I want designers in my studio, not stylists. Designers have to understand a lot: aerodynamics, ergonomics, and technology. Stylists can do what they want.

Gian Paolo: …homologation too. It is one of the more engaging constraints for the people [involved in the project].

Filippo: Yes! It’s important for designers to know all they can behind the process of building a new car. And it was really interesting for us.

Petrolicious [to Filippo]: You’ve said that it’s dangerous to do a sequel (Gallardo to Huracán) but do you feel that it also represents an opportunity?

Filippo: We’re always asked to do something different, as designers. And at Lamborghini, we would never do a sequel. We decided from the beginning to do an all-new car. It had to have a different aesthetic, different frame, different chassis characteristics. Our customers follow us in a non-evolutionary way, we’re always trying to do something modern. And consider Lamborghini’s history: we have done many iconic cars. But there are not evolutionary. It’s very difficult, and in other companies you can be evolutionary, but not at Lamborghini.

Petrolicious [to Filippo]: From a styling perspective, what were the goals for the Huracán?

Filippo: The silhouette and main inspiration were driven by the Countach. There is no division between the three volumes, a single line describes  the car’s complete volume. And this is something that comes from our identity. (At this point Filippo became excited, more emphatic) And you can see that the Huracán is much more extreme than the Gallardo, because the Gallardo has a clear division between the cockpit and body side. It was cab forward but with a clear division. We tried to have a connection between the A-pillar on the Huracán and Countach. We were fighting over it, and fighting is the right word because there is always a clear request from the company to design a car that is daily-usable. But there is a difference between daily-usable and common.

Petrolicious: This is a slightly pointed question, but the Gallardo lacks plan view, the front was rather flat and, as you said, there was a very clear distinction between the greenhouse and bodyside…

Filippo:…if you remember the Gallardo, in the sections, in the front and rear fender, it’s ninety degrees. It’s a little bit boxy and you’ll never find something like this on the Huracán.

Petrolicious: So it was very conscious that you moved away from that?

Filippo: Yeah. If you [look] at the car there is no shoulder.

Petrolicious: So now that the Huracán Super Trofeo is done, what does Lamborghini have in the pipeline?

Filippo: (laughing) You can ask [Lamborghini CEO] Mr. Winklemann…

Petrolicious: Do you both own classic cars?

Filippo: Oh yes…(laughing) I have a garage full of stupid, rusty cars.

Petrolicious: Do you have a favorite?

Filippo: My favorite is in pieces now, but it’s a GT40 replica. I’m trying to restore it and collecting spare parts, but it’s very difficult because I want to do it right.

Gian Paolo: I have some racing cars, one that won Daytona with a twelve cylinder, a Formula One car, and I want to buy a Miura, but every time I’m ready to buy, the price has increased. Now it’s maybe too expensive.

Filippo: The more you wait, the more expensive [it becomes]. We’re all the same!

Petrolicious: Do you have a favorite road that you love driving?

Filippo: My favorite roads are around my small town. And I know the roads well. When you test a car this is very important. It’s great, a lot of climbing and a mountain.

Gian Paolo: I live in a parallel valley and there are small roads, without traffic and I like driving especially at night when you can easily see that no other cars are coming.

Petrolicious: If you could personally design or build anything, what would it be?

Gian Paolo: A modern Lotus Seven for hill climbing and small roads. Very simple, starting just like a motorcycle, absolutely naked. Inspired by what Colin Chapman was doing, but the absolute minimum. Light. I have the chassis but I’m missing the powertrain. And if it was a racecar, an LMP2. And I’ll tell you why not LMP1. Because LMP1 is for big, huge manufacturers.

Filippo: I totally agree with you!

Gian Paolo: So there is no way to compete with these companies because they spend hundreds of millions Euros per year, the best drivers, the best of everything…

Filippo: I’m really passionate about motorsports and so I hope one day we’ll be very involved in racing but this [the Super Trofeo] is a good starting point.

Petrolicious: Where do you think the industry is headed?

Filippo: I think in the future we’ll need something that was common in the past: the emotion of driving. Not for the speed but for what the car communicates to you, through the steering wheel, the sliding of the tires, these are sensations that are missing today. Considering traffic and speed limits, we’ll need more cars made in this way.

Gian Paolo: I would say that there are still plenty of ways to express my ideas.

Filippo: This is right. Earlier today, we were speaking about the amount of different cars that are here [at The Quail]. Motoring is something that is huge and there are many different breeds. I know what I like today, but I don’t know what I will like tomorrow. There is still enough room to do something new. This is our goal.

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9 years ago

The Lamborghini Reventón is a supercar the automaker Italian Lamborghini presented at the motor show in Frankfurt 2007.1 Originally designed exclusively coupe, it will be split into a roadster version in 2009, benefiting from the mechanical changes in the SV version of the Murciélago.

MJ Saxena
9 years ago

This luxurious car has luxurious features and its body construction is constructed of aluminium. It is an expensive and very longstanding car. However, at present people like it. It looks splendid.

Mark R
9 years ago

Maybe it’s because of my age, but I just love the lines of this incredible beauty. When I think of classic Italian sports cars, this is the image that comes to mind. Refined is right! If I were to spend a million dollars for a car, I would spend it on a Ferrari or Lamborghini of this vintage.

9 years ago

pretty car!

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle
9 years ago

When i think of Lamborghini this is the type of car i think about. A smooth, refined, elegant beauty of a car and just look at that color too!. Modern Lamborghini just dont do for me it seems like they were meant for a adolescent fantasy then something what taste like this car before us but thats just one man’s opinion on the subject.

9 years ago
Reply to  Dustin Rittle

I have to agree with the above comment. That is not to say I don’t like modern Lamborghini, just I can’t see the point of the cars currently made. This type of car combines beauty, performance, some degree of practicality, and you can actually drive it on modern roads.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
9 years ago

This is a wonderful interview. I love the comment delineating the designer from the stylist and placing it in context. Thank you, Mr. Perini and Mr. Dallara.

I’d be looking to get on the ground floor of that LMP2 development team, should it ever culminate. Sounds like fun.

Dallara has a rich history in motorsport, and the model of the company reminds me a bit of how Swift once was out here in Southern California. Racing is tough business, and it is nice to see both experience and passion vocalized here with a realistic, yet still inspired, view of what tomorrow may bring.

Thanks for sharing.

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